On the home page of globeandmail.com, you've probably seen the list of the 10 most popular stories. On Thursday, two of them referred to actress Anne Hathaway; another about the movie Argo; one the daily horoscope; and the others on major news and business stories.
In addition to letting readers know what's trending on the website, The Globe's digital editors use this functionality to see what readers are clicking on most. According to Jim Sheppard, globeandmail.com's executive editor, staff use this knowledge, coupled with data from other traffic-tracking tools that is continually displayed on several screens around the newsroom, as part of their journalistic decision-making process about what stories get displayed on the home page. News value trumps numbers, but all websites use such numbers to run a constant check on what the reading public likes most.
Unlike the newspaper where you can't easily determine what are the most popular articles, the website is open for anyone to see what is grabbing people's attention. While some readers sniff at the thought of popular entertainment stories on The Globe's site, the truth is that many of you are complex readers seeking a variety of news and information and a little fun. You care about the major news and business stories but you are also interested in what Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway say. I've asked Jim Sheppard a few questions about how the Top 10 list is collected and what it means.
Are the best-read stories as listed on the site based on the most recent hour or day of reading?
They are based on the past 12 hours.
What type of stories are most popular in the mornings, afternoon and evenings. Does the subject area change during the day?
It varies greatly from day to day but some trends do emerge. Business news generally does better in the early morning, along with politics and commentary. By mid-day, when readers have more time over their lunch break, photo galleries and videos trend higher. Sports can do well in the evening or on weekends. But in general, a good headline and/or topic is the key.
Are videos and photo galleries included in the most popular list?
Yes all digital content is included. On Thursday morning, a photo gallery on Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway is one of the most viewed. Later, that will change.
At times, a story that isn't current will come back into a Top 10 spot or a current story will get huge readership beyond what we would expect from traffic to our own site alone. What causes this?
This is usually caused by that article being linked to from another source – say Reddit or Drudge or a popular blog – or found via Google, Yahoo or other search engine.
If you would like to comment on this, please do so below. Or you can send me an e-mail on this or any other issue at firstname.lastname@example.org